- Morsy aides' custody extended for assault, torture probe
- Trial date set for Muslim Brotherhood figures
- Morsy supporters have camped out for weeks, demanding he be reinstated
- Secularists and liberals have aligned with the current military-backed government
Egypt's military-backed government ordered two top aides to ousted President Mohamed Morsy held for another 15 days and set trial dates for top Muslim Brotherhood leaders who face murder charges, state news outlets reported Sunday.
Morsy's chief of staff, Refa'a al-Tahtawi, and his deputy, Asaad Shaikha, already were jailed in the aftermath of the July 3 coup that toppled Egypt's first democratically elected leader. Sunday's announcement by the General Prosecution Office, carried by the state-run news agency EgyNews, allows them to be held even longer while authorities pursue allegations of assault, incitement and the torture of anti-Morsy demonstrators after a December 5 protest.
Meanwhile, the state newspaper Al-Ahram said a Cairo appeals court has set an August 18 trial date for the fugitive spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement behind Morsy, and several other Brotherhood figures.
Mohamed Badie and the others are accused of inciting followers to kill protesters in front of the Brotherhood's office in the days before the coup. Two of the accused -- Badie's deputy, Khairat el-Shater, and Rashad Al-Bayoumi are in custody; Badie and two others remain at large.
Egypt has been embroiled in chaos since the coup, with hundreds killed and thousands hurt in recent weeks in clashes between opposing protesters or between protesters and Egyptian security forces. The army said Sunday that Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with Islamist leaders Saturday to discuss the country's political crisis, but it did not specify the groups that took part in the meeting.
Secularists and liberals whose protests led to Morsy's ouster find themselves aligned, at least in part, with the current military-backed government. Morsy supporters, meanwhile, have camped out for weeks in crowded Cairo streets, demanding Morsy be reinstated.
Morsy became Egypt's first democratically elected president in June 2012, after popular protests forced the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled the country for 30 years.
But a year into Morsy's term, many Egyptians wanted him out, too. They said the Western-educated Islamist, the former head of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, had been anything but inclusive since taking office and had failed to deliver on the people's aspirations for freedom and social justice.
But Muslim Brotherhood spokeswoman Mona al Qazzaz accused the military and opposition of "killing the biggest democracy in the Middle East."
"The military stepped in, and the opposition that failed to win through the ballot boxes came on the back of the tanks," she said last month.
The United States has been reluctant to choose sides in Egypt's political standoff, with President Barack Obama and U.S. officials stressing that the main priority is minimizing violence and ensuring inclusiveness in the political process.
Egypt has long been a close ally of the United States. The country gets $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid.
But if the U.S. formally labeled Morsy's removal as a coup, it would have to cut off that aid, and that "would limit our ability to have the kind of relationship we think we need with the Egyptian armed forces," said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The United States helps Egypt because it's one of only two Arab countries -- along with Jordan -- that made peace with Israel. If Washington pulls its aid, it could affect prospects for peace in the Middle East.